C.W. Gusewell

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

Going to bat for a distant relative

I have many fine memories of summer evenings in a rowboat, with a golden moon just rising, fish jumping, bullfrogs croaking and dark little bats performing their incredible acrobatics in quest of bugs.

But bats in the wild are one thing. Bats in the bedroom are quite another.

It was past 10 o’clock. The only light in the room was the glow of the television, on which the Royals baseball team was failing to live up to its potential.

Suddenly I imagined I felt a little rush of breeze past my head. But how could that be possible? No windows were open.

Then it happened again. And this time I caught a glimpse – hardly more than a brief suspicion – of something in flight.

A moment later, the thing passed directly in front of the TV screen, and there was no mistaking the identity of the beast.

We’ve had chipmunks caught by a cat and released uninjured indoors, and lizards and hermit crabs that escaped from their terrarium. Those we’ve lived with easily enough.

But sharing one’s sleeping quarters with a winged mammal does not encourage untroubled sleep. Awake in a small hour, I could hear its repeated little thumps against the closed door to the next room.

Evidently our bedroom was not sufficient. It wanted free range of the house.

How it got indoors we may never know. But the next morning I had the opportunity to identify it absolutely. On doctors’ instructions, I weigh daily. Our bathroom scale has a glass cover. And as I started to step on it, I noticed something under the glass.

And there was no mistaking it. Two tiny legs were stretched out behind, and one leathery little wing extended to the side.

Protecting my hand with a washcloth, I picked it up – feeling it wriggle in protest – opened a window and let it fly.

Going to the literature, I’ve properly identified our visitor as a little brown mouse-eared bat, Myotis lucifugus, and also have found we have more in common than you might imagine.

Like us, bats have four fingers and a thumb, their digits much elongated and connected by a thin membrane to make the wings. And their two feet each have five toes.

They bear their tiny young alive and nurse them until able to fly. And it’s reported that when going to their daytime roost, they stretch and yawn before napping.

These endearing details do not tempt me to keep one as a pet, even if that were legal.

Like all bat species, the little brown mouse-eared one is protected by U.S. and international law. So I’m glad I gathered ours up gently and released him unhurt.

I don’t claim to have lived an altogether blameless life, but I would hate to go to prison for harming a relative – even one as distant as Myotis lucifugus.